The office furniture world outlook
The office furniture industry in 2020 reached a total production value of US$ 45 billion, representing around 10% of total world furniture output. Asia and Pacific is the main manufacturing area with almost half of world office furniture production, followed by North America and Europe. The other geographical areas hold marginal shares.
Production of office furniture was stagnant in 2019 and dropped by - 17% in 2020 due to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. The negative impact on world office furniture production has been different across regions. Asia and the Pacific decreased by 7% in 2020, while North America and Europe dropped by 25% each. Middle-East and Africa registered a similar performance (-25%). On the other hand, the decrease has been more severe in South America with a -32% in the current year.
World trade of office furniture (in current dollars) was worth US$ 8.4 billion in 2011, and reached US$ 10.8 billion in 2019. The pandemic has caused a major contraction (-14% preliminary estimate) in 2020. The main office furniture exporting country is China, followed at a distance by Canada, Germany, the United States and Italy. Preliminary data for 2020 show a substantial decrease in office furniture exports for all countries except China. Growth will resume in 2021 and 2022.
MARKETING APPROACH AND E-COMMERCE
Generally speaking, office furniture distribution shows a high degree of specialization, with direct sales and office furniture specialists and/or exclusive dealers accounting for the largest portion of the total. However, strong change of habits conducted by the pandemic and people adaptation to new circumstances, spaces, and technology, forced sector companies to operate some changes.
Large office commitments might tend to reduce in favor of a more fragmented market. This is true not only for domestic offices, but also for smaller offices on a regional base and, of course, co-working spaces. For these reasons, new logistic approaches are needed and recent communication strategies of office manufacturers (driven by social media) have been addressed to capture end-customer attention.
E-commerce is worth to be considered too, as lockdowns pushed web sales of office chairs in particular. This market is mainly represented by large-scale distributors and omnichannel retailers and is quite unexplored by office furniture companies. However, we expect this market to evolve rapidly giving room to new and higher-level solutions following the increasing consciousness of end-users and actions made by their employing companies to support the use of high-performance office furniture.
Pandemic has positively impacted e-commerce for office furniture. CSIL estimates web-sales reached a 4% share on the worldwide segment consumption in 2020 (1.7% in 2018).
HEIGHT-ADJUSTABLE DESKS TO GROW
While all major sources underline that remote working will increase in the coming years, this will not necessarily be a replacement for office space. Fluidity will come in the form of working from a variety of locations (home, headquarters, flex office, or coffee shop) reflecting the diversity of tasks and the preferences of employees.
Among the main product trends, the increasing presence of height-adjustable furniture is worth to be mentioned. Some markets are extremely sensitive towards the use of HAT. They have also legislated on this (ex. Scandinavia); other markets do not have a positive attitude because they consider it a cost difficult to sustain in relation to the operator's benefit. Not to mention that prices could even double. Nevertheless, this will be a trend in the future.
Demand for sit-stand desks tends to be strong across corporate offices. However, co-working centers, other flexible workspaces, and home offices are also increasing in demand. It is worth noting that, companies are introducing HAT desks not only in workstations but also in communal areas, where workers can eat, have a break or even organize short meetings. Usually, this kind of combination features small desks independently connected to each other and with a single motor per position.
Source: CSIL Office furniture: world market outlook, December 2020 edition